Of resolutions and revolutions

“It’s going to be a complete 360-degree turn,” said my colleague with great enthusiasm. “Yep. I am going to be a completely different person in absolutely every aspect of my life in 2012.”

We were discussing the subject of New Year’s resolutions. “Wow!” was my response. “Are you aware that what you are proposing is also known as a revolution?” I laughed. He was not amused.

I did try to suggest that he may be more successful with his resolutions if he just picked one thing to change or improve as opposed to everything!

But no, he was adamant that he could easily turn himself from Mr Just-ok into Mr Incredible-in-every-way in one smooth year. I am observing in silence.

Of course not everyone is as sensible as Jay-Z whose resolution is reportedly just to spend more time with his wife Beyonce.

Last year Kim Kardashian resolved to stay single the whole year of being 30 years old, but failed to stick to this when she married and divorced Kris Humphries after just 72 days in 2011.

Celebrities are of course a different kettle of fish, living in lalaland as they do. But for most people around the world, the number one resolution is to lose weight.

Apparently looking better and feeling better tops the list of people’s resolutions the world over when it comes to the one change they recognise themselves as wanting to make at the beginning of every year.

Another popular resolution is getting organised. Many people decide at the beginning of the year that they will keep their office or home space clearer; or that they will sleep and wake up earlier or manage their time better.

Changing jobs, starting a business and pursuing new opportunities are also popular resolutions. And then of course there is the subject of love. Some resolve to be more loving, others to find new love.

Like my misguided colleague, most people declare sweeping changes; they take on hugely ambitious goals and although they may not aim for a total transformation, they do attempt to bite off more than they can chew with seriously inaccessible targets. Inevitably this all-or-nothing mentality leads to disaster.

Many type A personalities do themselves a great disservice by setting themselves unrealistic goals, then experiencing the soul-destroying frustration of disappointing oneself. In fact they not only do this with themselves, but also with others around them.

My pastor used to tell this anecdote: If John has a problem with Mary and John has a problem with Paul and John has a problem with Peter and John has a problem with Ruth, we must at some point conclude that John has a problem!

There is more than a grain of truth in this and just possibly John’s problem is a bunch of unrealistically high standards that he is expecting everyone to match up to, but nobody can!
Experts tell us that to be successful, resolutions should be realistic.

They should be both specific and holistic and they should focus on the means, not just the end. But the key is to keep goals simple.

In the movie City Slickers Curly and Mitch have a famous conversation in which Curly says, “Do you know what the secret of life is? . . . One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean s**t.”

“But what’s the one thing?” Mitch asks. Smiling Curly answers, “That’s what you have to find out.”
This conversation can really help one clarify things.

Once you can isolate just one or two important things and remaining focused on those, you boost your chances of succeeding at it and, equally importantly, feel a lot better about yourself.

In the final analysis it doesn’t matter what the issue are, as long as they matter to you.

There is a popular assumption that it takes 21 days to form a habit. Theoretically that would mean by the end of January all the resolutions begun on New Year’s Day, if they were practiced consistently should, by the end of the month, have become habits.

Popular self-improvement guru, Dr Phil says people don’t break bad habits, but they replace them with new ones. On drphil.com he also suggests that you avoid situations in which you usually engage in your bad habit. Friends and family can also be co-opted to support one’s efforts.

So as 2012 stretches out before us, shiny, crisp and new, let’s set out to make it work, by setting ourselves simple achievable goals; by substituting bad habits with good ones and by being focused.

No need for character revolutions or even a too many well-meaning resolutions — just one thing. And sticking with it.

That my friends, could change you whole year — or even your whole life!

Thembe Sachikonye writes in her personal capacity.

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